You're encouraged to go and listen to today's song, "Narrow Minds," before reading the rest of this post, in which I'll be disclosing things that may change the way you hear the music. Go ahead, take a minute to take it in: the slick saxophones, the fluttering ride cymbals, the vocal harmonies layered as sweet and delicate as baklava. Go on. I'll wait.
Back? All right. The band is an 11-person French outfit called Angil and the Hiddentracks, led by the singer-songwriter Mickäel Mottet, and they do something really special here, assembling a catchy, confident pop song out of elements--horns, woodwinds, polite jazz drums--usually relegated to the margins of pop. "Narrow Minds" is like a transmission from a parallel universe, one where the cool kids play alto sax while the band nerds stay in their rooms practicing guitar.
The song appears on Ouliposaliva, a 2008 album where Mottet et al. pull off a neat trick: none of the music uses the E chord, and none of the lyrics use words containing the letter E. (The album title is a nod to Oulipo, the constrained-writing movement whose canon includes Georges Perec's E-less novel La Disparition.) Once you know this, the temptation may be to dismiss "Narrow Minds" as a gimmick song, but this would overlook the fact that it's a really good song, with the constraint not at all apparent on first listen, or on twentieth. It's an accomplishment on formal terms--but it's also an odd, marvelous piece of art in its own right.
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